Preservation doesn’t have to be pricey, Missoula award winner says

Bret Anne Serbin

Historic preservation and housing affordability are often pitted against each other, but they don’t have to be, according to Bob Oaks with the North Missoula Community Development Corporation.

Oaks received the Missoula Historic Preservation Commission’s Centennial Award earlier this month for his contributions to saving Missoula landmarks. But his efforts at preservation go hand-in-hand with a commitment to affordability.

“That’s really unfortunate that that attitude is so prevalent,” Oaks said of the mindset that preservation inherently runs counter to attainable pricing.

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Oaks, who moved to Missoula in 1985, has consistently endeavored to pair creative approaches to housing with preservation work. He believes many initiatives to bring in new development exacerbate affordability issues, whereas upkeep of historic buildings could instead better guarantee affordability.

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An example that stands out to Oaks is the former railroad houses that used to stand in Missoula’s Northside neighborhood. The small historic residences, once used to house railroad workers, offered an obvious small-scale affordable housing option to Oaks. They also signified an important period in Missoula’s history, and he sought to preserve them.

“They met

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